PRINT December 2010

Anne M. Wagner

BEST: NOT A WORD I’VE EVER MUCH LIKED when applied to exhibitions. I think my discomfort comes from the way the term seems to brook neither comparison nor argument, or at least implies that the arguing and comparing are over, when in fact they may have only just begun.

The exhibition I want to argue for is “Alice Neel: Painted Truths,” a show originated by Jeremy Lewison and Barry Walker at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. I saw it at the Whitechapel Gallery in London on a late afternoon this past September, when the streets were teeming with people, and the shopping and selling were still going strong. The perfect setting, somehow, though it was not the noise and jostle that made it so. It was the endless stream of bodies and faces, all ages, all colors, all classes, all types, all shapes.

Neel’s portraits stop that stream. They reach out to catch hold of their subjects, sit them down,

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